The Central Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende—long a haven for foreign artists attracted to its baroque and neoclassical architecture and to weather locals describe as "perpetual spring"—is becoming the destination of choice for the chic Mexico City set. Thankfully, the new attention hasn't diminished San Miguel's UNESCO-protected Colonial-era charm.
Boutique hotels dot the city, but the 32-room Matilda leads the pack with the trappings of a hotel many times its size. There's an infinity pool, a gym, a farm-to-table restaurant, a dome-ceiling bar, and a world-class spa that incorporates local and organic herbs and spices. Throughout are works by modern Mexican masters like Aldo Chaparro, Nacho Rodríguez Bach, and Bosco Sodi, commissioned by the owner.
San Miguel de Allende's cafés and markets offer delicious local treats, but for more serious fare, book ahead at one of these: Casa Allende, where celebrity chef Eduardo Osuna serves up tradition with a twist (think smoked-marlin tostadas); Restaurant Matilda, whose locavore take on Mexican classics includes a tequila-barrel-smoked duck; and Mivida, with Mexican-inflected Italian dishes like rack of lamb with mashed corn and red mole. Hit Rosewood San Miguel de Allende's rooftop tapas bar for a nightcap—and unrivaled views.
Local markets hold no shortage of handicrafts, but San Miguel also offers an array of boutiques and a serious art scene. Recreo San Miguel (above) updates the classic serape with luxe fabrics like linen, silk, and cashmere. Insh'ala has an impeccably curated selection of home goods from Mexico to Morocco. And Fabrica La Aurora, in a former textile factory, houses dozens of artists' studios and galleries, and a lovely outdoor café.
Foodies not content with the restaurant scene can attend the Casa de Sierra Nevada hotel's Sazón cooking school, with guided tours of local markets, a primer on Mexican regional cuisine, and a class in which head chef Felipe Ramírez walks students through one of his specialties. Tequila aficionados should book a tasting at La Casa Dragones (above), held in the stunning former stables of the Dragones de la Reina.
Worthwhile attractions outside the city limits include Cañada de la Virgen (above), a pre-Columbian archaeological site, and Atotonilco—Mexico's Sistine Chapel. Less strenuous is the Hotel Matilda's Spa en Vivo, a rustic hilltop location with natural hot springs and stunning panoramic views. Back in town, even the grandest homes are hidden, secret-garden-style, behind high walls that abut cobblestone streets; for a glimpse behind closed doors, attend the house tours that convene Sunday mornings at the town library.